Reddit Redemption: is the web’s wild west the next big thing in social advertising?

For many years Reddit has been regarded as a risky proposition for marketers. It’s commitment to unfiltered content and its notoriously ‘tricky’ audience make it a tough and somewhat daunting nut to crack. However, after recent commercial revamps and some head-turning numbers over the last 12 months (the platform boasts over 330 million monthly active users and 14 billion views per month), there are signs that 2019 could be the year that marketers finally start to engage with Reddit.

Unlike other platforms that have risen to prominence in recent years, and become staples of a social strategy, Reddit is by no means an overnight success. The platform has been in existence since 2005 and was initially regarded as a wild west style hangout for programmers and other online outlaws affectionately known as ‘Redditors’.

Reddit is made up of a stream of comment boards, or subreddits, where posters discuss everything and anything (and we mean anything) with content rated through a Karmic upvote/downvote system. There is an undeniable opportunity for those willing to venture way out west but, like any good spaghetti western, the journey invariably comes with an element of risk.

Exploring ‘The front page of the internet’

Reddit is a juggernaut of content, opinions and users, and a genuine challenger to the social status quo. Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian recently warned ‘I really believe we’ve hit…peak social’ suggesting that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have all reached their prime and that people are veering towards more real, community-based platforms. With all of this talk, we decided to saddle up and investigate exactly how advertising on ‘the front page of the internet’ works.

A wild reputation

The question on everyone’s lips when it comes to Reddit is whether it is ‘brand safe’. Reddit’s owners are hesitant to draw a line when it comes to what can and cannot be shared. Threads like the controversial /r/The_Donald subreddit, a community of Trump supporters with a tendency to share racist imagery, is allowed to remain open. It is worth considering the implications for your brand of being associated with a site that has such an ‘open’ approach. But there are ways to avoid having your content shown as a backdrop to unsavoury or inappropriate content.

Reddit allows for sub-reddit targeting, so although you cannot control what conversations go on within threads, you can stick to areas that are likely to be made up of audiences you want to engage with. It’s a golden opportunity to reach out to a new, targeted community but, ultimately, it comes down to whether you consider Reddit to be a safe place for your brand to sit.

How does advertising on Reddit work?

Like most social platforms, you can choose to use Reddit organically – adding posts and directing people towards your site – or through paid advertising – by creating ads and sponsored content. When choosing paid options, ads can be managed by Reddit’s ‘managed advertising programme’, or set up in the same self-service style as Facebook and Google Adwords, with the options of link, text or display advertising.

Link ads will direct people towards a landing page, text ads will bring you to another page on Reddit, and display ads are more closely aligned to traditional banner media. It is worth noting that display ads are only available through Reddit’s ‘managed advertising program’ mentioned above.

Reddit ads are controlled through a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) auction system, with over 1.2 million subreddits to peruse for targeting.

When building your audience, you can target based on interests, location, subreddits, mobile vs desktop and time of day. Interests are made up of a group of general subreddits by topic like ‘business’ and ‘news’. The subreddit targeting is still in its infancy though, and only subreddits with the most traffic can be reached, which is quite limiting.

In a bid to soften its prickly reputation Reddit has a pretty comprehensive support platform for the site and common advertising queries to explore.

How can Reddit fit into a wider marketing plan?

Reddit suggests they are here to ‘tell your story’ by supporting awareness, driving sales and driving traffic. They have certainly turned a corner in terms of commercial viability. However, if you are new to the channel and looking to experiment, it’s probably best-suited to awareness raising in support of campaigns with similar values to the platform itself: fun, creative and genuine.

Reddit has been used by brands like Coca Cola and Toyota to create hype around new campaigns, engaging this unique audience in their language by doing something outside of the norm. Coca Cola’s campaign asked users to come up with superhero stories featuring their favourite Marvel heroes in line with an NFL game advert. Facilitating users to chat among themselves, it led to 400 comments in 4 days.

If you have a campaign that you feel will resonate with a group of engaged and passionate straight shooters there is a ready-made audience waiting for you somewhere among the /r/subreddits. If you do your research carefully, paying close attention to the kind of content posted on the subreddits you’re thinking of targeting, there’s lots of potential for riding off into the sunset with a positive brand story in your saddlebag.

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